Recently I have been thinking back over the past year and everything that has changed for me since having a baby. It hasn't been easy that is for sure. And one thing that keeps entering my thoughts daily is how at times I feel like an outcast for thinking and feeling just how deeply difficult this being a Mom thing has truly been. I have constant feelings and thoughts that make me feel guilty and selfish, and I am starting to believe that these feelings are more common than most of us Moms are willing to talk about. I feel passionate that it's important that we do, so that we can feel these things openly and talk about them, allowing them to feel more normal and ultimately less major.
In order to be completely and totally honest about what the feelings have looked like for me I have formulated a list. I could preface this list with a lot of explanation about how I love my little girl and that it has brought me so much joy and how I'd never wish her away because she is so wonderful - all of these statements being true - but, I don't want to detract from the honesty of what I am going to talk about. I feel that in the past year I was always saying "it WAS hard and I WAS having a tough time, but now I am better." Even though I wasn't. It was progressively better, but never completely healed. It was like I never wanted to admit that I was STILL feeling guilty, sad or like I was failing.
And with that, my list:
1. After going through labor (with an outcome I wasn't prepared for - a c-section) I did not have the glowing, lights from the clouds, halo over the baby's head "AHHHHHHH" moment that you hear about. We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl and I thought that moment, that surprise was going to be the most amazing moment of my life ... But when it actually happened, when they announced "It's a GIRL!", I barely heard it.
2. The first weeks at home alone with her were not filled with joy. I was in shock. I know I did everything that I needed to do to fulfill her needs at that time. But past the day to day routine of feed, diaper, sleep, feed, diaper, sleep, I couldn't find the happiness. The overwhelming love for this little bundle that everyone kept saying I'd feel, was there, but just barely. I felt when I looked into her eyes, I knew nothing about them. I couldn't connect, and for that I felt awful.
3. I was not prepared for the healing. Physically and emotionally. The vivid dreams, the tears, the lack of sleep, my body was a mess. I remember looking in the mirror at myself and thinking "who is that person and what happened to her?" I felt like my body was no longer my own. I did not feel beautiful anymore. I felt pain in so many areas (my head, my healing incision, my breasts (breast feeding proved to be 1000 times more difficult than expected), my stomach, and mostly, my heart). The pain was constant and took months to dissipate. The physical pain went first, and then, slowly, but still not completely, my head and my heart began to clear.
4. The lack of sleep. It makes sense to myself (and Danny) that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture in some places. It truly is. And this lack of sleep makes all of the other feelings you feel, feel amplified a thousand times over. I remember being pregnant and thinking, "I am going to love being up late with my little one, cozy in our rocking chair." But, when reality hit, I didn't think this lovely thought even once. It wasn't just being up late, it was the waking up again and again, and just craving for even just a solid stretch of a few hours of shut eye. It was incredibly hard to enjoy the moment when my eyelids were as heavy as they were. I didn't bank on the fact that I'd feel as guilty as I did about Danny being woken up so many times when he had to work a full day the next morning. I felt guilty and alone, because I knew this was my new job, but what I hadn't predicted was just how exhaustingly difficult this new job would be.
4. Life as I knew it was no longer just about me anymore (this is a thought I still feel selfish for feeling, because it lingers). I suddenly had this little bundle to take care of. This little bundle that I knew nothing about. And every step of the way, when I used to be able to just get up and go, or start or finish something on my own accord, sleep when I wanted to, eat when I wanted to, shower when I wanted to ... all of these things were now being controlled by another being. A being that needed me for survival. A being that I needed to prove that I could be an amazing mother to. I distinctly remember feeling jealous seeing people on social media or on television that had dogs instead of kids. I remember thinking, "they must not feel this gripping fear that everything you do can and will affect someone's future" ... "they must not feel so trapped."
5. Leaving my old life behind. In the beginning I wasn't able to see that yes, life had changed, but not completely. I was mourning the loss of what life used to be. Movie dates with Danny. The bar with friends. Dinner parties where you could just sit and drink wine for hours. Driving effortlessly to and from a job that I loved. It was all a bit of a distant memory at first. And I felt like something had died.
There were and continue to be other feelings beyond this list, but I think this sums up the basic raw and difficult emotions that I felt in the beginning and that stuck around in different shapes and forms over the past year. As time has gone on I have learned many things about these emotions. I've learned that time heals, that even though my life has changed, it hasn't completely, and for all of the difficult changes that have occurred, there are also so many wonderful changes. We do as much as we can to include Savvy in the same activities we used to do that are child friendly. We go out to eat. We stay out late at friend's places. She has learned to adjust. She transfers from a playpen in a friends bedroom to her crib at home like a champ. I've learned that sleep returns and it is only a small fraction of a child's life that the sleepless nights continue. And mostly I have learned that I am not alone. Danny is an amazing husband and support and father. My family and friends are spectacular. And mostly, I know that having these feelings does not make me an outcast, it makes me normal. We all experience these life changing events in different ways. I wanted to share mine, in hopes that if there is someone out there feeling the same raw and difficult emotions, they know that they should not feel guilty, and that they are never alone.